Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Knowing through Experience


Last night, we had a dish for supper that is pretty common in our house—Kung Pao chicken—but this time, we added an unusual-for-us ingredient to the stir-fry: mushrooms. The dish almost always comes with chicken, onions, bell peppers, peanuts, red chili peppers, and the sauce, but, because we had a surplus of edible fungus on hand, we decided to add mushrooms to the dish.

“What is this? Is it chicken?” my three-year-old asked as he speared a quartered mushroom with his fork. Not wanting to dissuade him from eating it, I replied, “What do you think it is?” He said chicken, and I said ok, and he popped it into his mouth. He chewed. We watched. “It tastes more like a mushroom thing. Is it a mushroom?” Busted. We told him what it was, and, even though he ate the first bite without any objection, he wouldn’t eat anymore.

His mother explained that the mushrooms didn’t taste like anything other than the sauce that they were in, but that didn’t help. Then our five-year-old daughter joined the conversation. Searching for affirmation and thus siding with her parents, she wholeheartedly confirmed that the mushrooms indeed did taste like the sauce. I took that as an opportunity to distinguish between taste and texture. A short vocabulary and culinary lesson ensued. We talk about different textures and noted that, although some things may taste alike, they often have different textures—like mushrooms and chicken. “What sort of texture does a mushroom have?” I asked. We didn’t get very far. How do you explain in words to a three-year-old and a five-year-old the difference between textures? By comparison. “Is anything on your plate crunchy? Is anything creamy?” In the abstract, I got nowhere, but, when I focused on the experience of dinner, our conversation became fruitful. And that got me thinking about the resurrection.

On the road to Emmaus, Jesus meets some downcast disciples. He engages them in conversation and seems appalled when they don’t understand that the messiah was supposed to be betrayed, arrested, tortured, and killed before rising on the third day. So he starts with Moses and explains how the Hebrew scriptures point to this.

But still they cannot see him.

Only when they are sitting at table and Jesus breaks the bread are their eyes opened and they understand who he is. The same is true for us—not just that we experience the risen Jesus in Holy Communion, which we do, but that we must experience the resurrection to know it. When the two disciples make their way back to the eleven in Jerusalem, they explain “how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” Known. They know him by experiencing him. Not in hearing the scripture. Not in listening to an explanation. Although their hearts burned when they heard it, they didn’t recognize him until they experienced it.

How will you experience resurrection this Easter? You can’t know the risen Jesus until you experience him. No amount of explaining or talking (or preaching) or pointing or studying will get you there. You have to experience the resurrection. We spend 50 days in the season of Easter for just that reason—to remind us that we have to experience it to understand it. Where will the empty tomb show up for you this year? 

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